Around this time last year, [Sprite_TM] took a 1980’s-era Macintosh SE and rebuilt it as a home file server. He used a Seagate Dockstar as the new motherboard, but over the past year he’s been annoyed with the fact that the Dockstar doesn’t have real SATA ports. Using USB to SATA converters on a server is a slow way of doing things, so [Sprite_TM] rebuilt his SE using an HP thin client. To do this, he had to break out the onboard SATA and PCIE; not an easy task, but that’s why [Sprite_TM] is around.
The first order of business was installing a pair of SATA ports. The stock thin client had two NAND-flash chips serving as the drive, both connected to a SATA controller. All [Sprite_tm] had to do was desolder the flash chips and wire up the new SATA connections. Easy enough.
Because the HP thin client only had 100Mbps Ethernet, [Sprite_tm] wasn’t looking forward to the order of magnitude difference between his expected rsync speeds and what he would get with a 1Gbps connection. The only problem is the thin client didn’t have a spare PCIE connection for an Ethernet card. That’s really no problem for [Sprite_tm], though: just desolder the GPU and run a few wires.
Just like last year’s work on his SE, [Sprite_tm] ended up with a functional and very cool home server. The old-school System 7 is still there, and of course he can still play Beyond Dark Castle. Awesome work, in our humble opinion.
[Sprite_tm] is back again, and his work never fails to impress. His latest project is a Game Boy Advance MIDI synth that takes MIDI data from a keyboard or sequencer and maps that to Game Boy sound channels.
Because he seems to never do anything the normal way, [Sprite_tm] decided to run the Game Boy without a cartridge. We’ve seen this before; the GBA boots into the synth software over the link cable with multibooting.
Continue reading “Adding a MIDI input to a Game Boy”
[Sprite_TM] outgrew the features of the cheap unmanaged TL-SG1005D switch he was using on his home network. Instead of buying a new and much more costly switch he cracked the cheap one open and found that the RTL8366SB chip inside possessed the ability to work harder but was crippled for sale as a low-end model. It wasn’t as easy as that oscilloscope firmware upgrade we saw a while back. He had to add an AVR ATmega88 to send I2C commands to the switch. Turns out that the I2C protocol wasn’t standard and after much head scratching he found some Linux drivers for the chipset that gave him enough info to send the configuration commands he needed. Now he’s go the managed switch he needed for his VLAN for the cost of a microcontroller and some wire.
Want to make the above yourself? [Sprite_tm] did a thorough job documenting the build step by step (complete with pics, schematics, graphs, and links to the parts used). In summary, [Sprite_tm] busted open an Ikea CFL bulb to reuse the housing. Inside, he installed a scavenged power supply, ATtiny44, RGB LED module, and a radio receiver. A remote control allows [Sprite_tm] to change the lighting of his room to nearly any color. The cost of the project is a little under $30. The price tag isn’t so steep when one considers the insanely long lifetime of LEDs.
Over at SpriteMods, [sprite_tm] realized that a microcontroller could be used as a boost converter to power itself. A boost converter steps up voltage from a battery by switching the output of a coil. First, it is tied to ground so a magnetic field can build up in the coil. It is then released as a higher voltage than the input. Normally dedicated chips do this at an incredibly high frequency, but the PWM signal from an AVR works well enough. This can be used in low-power situations where space is an issue.
[sprite_tm], whose projects we have covered in the past, took the popular bristlebot to an extreme and created a controllable version. A bristlebot consists of a small vibrating motor mounted with a battery on the head of a toothbrush. These micro-robots buzz around randomly, and he attempted to tame them. He used a platform of twin bristlebots and added an optical sensor from a laser mouse and an ATtiny13. The optical sensor is used to determine the relative motion of the robot, so that the motors can be adjusted accordingly. He also has a video of the bot using the sensor to find a mark on the floor and stay within bounds. Although it isn’t as accurate, it acts like a traditional line-following robot.
Continue reading “Controllable bristlebot”
We love old display technology, like Nixie tubes, but they’re often difficult to work with because they require higher voltages than digital logic. Vacuum florescent displays (VFD) fall into this category. While not necessarily “old”, they are becoming far less common than LCDs. The main benefit of a VFD is that it actually produces light directly; it doesn’t require a backlight. You’ll find these displays on various players and appliances: CD, DVD, VCR, microwaves, stoves, car headunits, and others.
[Sprite_tm] had written off some VFDs, but recently revisited them with renewed interest. He started by testing what sort of voltage would be required to drive the display. It took 3V for the filament plus 15V to drive the grids. There are VFD controller chips available, but he wanted to get this working with what he had on hand. He had experience with older 40xx series logic, which can be powered by much higher voltages than 5V 74xx. His final schematic has three 4094 serial to parallel chips with an ATtiny2313 controller. A 5V power supply is dropped to 3V with diodes to drive the filament while a boost converter brings it up to 15V for the 4094s that switch the segments. While the code is specific to this display, it would be a great place to start your own project.